On the Road Again

The first time I saw the new VW Bug I laughed out loud. I had to have one. It looked just like a shiny new toy car moving down the road. It was love at first sight. What a great car for a toy store owner to drive around town!

As soon as I got home I called my favorite graphic designer, Leah Bird. I had been working with her at a children’s game company. Her unique style inspires me. She arranges colorful fonts, words, and images in whimsical ways that make people smile. Plus, she’s wonderful to work with – smart, funny and professional. I knew she was the person we needed to design our VW Bug.

She was delighted to be on the project. I wanted a yellow Bug. Actually, I would have taken a whole fleet, one in each color, but the size of our budget dictated purchasing one. Leah got the exterior dimensions of the car and started designing the decals. My business partner and I began visiting VW dealers.

Imagine our surprise when we couldn’t find a yellow Bug anywhere in Massachusetts. There were none in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont or Connecticut either. We put my husband, an experienced journalist, on the job. He found the last remaining yellow Bug in northern Maine. We bought it!

My daughter Jenna was finishing up the summer season at Camp Runoia in the Belgrade Lakes. We scooped her up, drove north, picked up the Bug and began our trip south to Massachusetts. I’ll never forget how happy we were. It was the perfect mother-daughter road trip. There we were heading down the highway singing along with the radio and waving at people who honked their horns at us. My husband, who was following us, said that the little yellow car radiated happiness all the way from Maine to Massachusetts.

Once home we took the car to the shop where it was wrapped in Leah’s playful design. Three colorful words, PLAY, LAUGH and GIGGLE, were draped across the hood, trunk and roof of the car. No Kidding! A Toy Store decorated both doors. Our two store locations were visible on the back bumper. We whooped and hollered when we saw it for the first time!

Taking it out for a spin was always a joyous occasion. People of all ages smiled. Kids would point and shout.
We heard a lot of people exclaim, “Look!” Everyone waved. This whimsical little car was the talk of the town. It was fun to drive in town parades. I loved driving kids to school in it. Whenever I was behind the wheel we took the long way. Then I drove around town before opening the store.

When we sold the stores to launch Treehouse, the decals had to come off the car. I remember standing behind our Brookline store with my son just before the removal happened. “Mom, this is one of the best things you have ever done,” he said. I smiled and wondered how I could take this magic and weave it into my work on behalf of children experiencing foster care.

Twelve years later I figured out a way: Create a Leah Bird designed vehicle wrapped up words and images that inspire people to Re-Envisioning Foster Care! I told my family on Mother’s Day, as we were driving to one of our favorite farms where our youngest daughter is learning how to drive a horse carriage. They loved the idea! We began a lively brainstorming session. What kind of vehicle? Which ones were the right size and offered optimal visibility? Which cars were the most fuel efficient? Which ones were the most fun? Were there any Richard Scary type vans or trucks that would do the job? We’re still pondering the possibilities.

We will need a generous philanthropist or someone affiliated with a car dealership to donate the vehicle or provide us with a free lease. I’ve heard that there are generous folks who support non-profits with free vehicle leases…

In the meantime, I’ve reached out to Leah. She’s busy dreaming. Every time I hop in my car and get on the road I imagine driving our vibrant Re-Envisioning Foster Care! vehicle with a big grin on my face. I can’t wait to inspire people to support children experiencing foster care in this exciting new way. Stay tuned! I’ll write a blog post when we’re ready to hit the road.

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